Thursday, January 05, 2012

Best of Bowie: 50 - 46

50. "Beauty and the Beast" ("Heroes" - 1978) Kicking off the frenzied and daunting 'Heroes', "Beauty and the Beast" submerges you into a dual world, much akin to a lot of Bowie's music and imagery. Somewhere buried under the layers of insanely fuzzed guitars care of Robert Fripp and sloshing Eno synths is one of Bowie's stranger dance grooves. If this song wasn't so dark it could have been a great dance hit. Somehow the track is a combination of a disco groove and a post-kraut rock dirge. A dirge that moves your feet. This bi-polar nature is a constant theme through Bowie's career, but this era brought it to it's darkest edge while still being insanely catchy. The overall composition of this song is something of wonder. Unlike it's predecessor, Low, the vocal tracks on Heroes are much more structured and coherent, this being one of the best examples. Definitely one of the stranger singles in his catalog, but one that still rocks.
49. "5:15 The Angels Have Gone" (Heathen - 2002) The stream of conscious ballad is something Bowie excels at. Many of the tracks on this list will fall into this category and "5:15" is one of them. Heathen as a whole is mostly dark and romantic like this track. Tony Visconti returned to produce this album and this song in particular has his stamp all over it. Chorus synths, a woozy bass-line care of Tony Levin and an epic chorus that raises you out of the muddled shuffle of Bowie looking to get out of wherever he was feeling stuck. It's a song about wishing to get yourself out of a rut, out of a town that holds you down. It could just simply be about how Bowie has never really stayed in the same place for too long. Be it London, Berlin, New York or L.A., he's moved quite a bit for inspiration but has never staid in the same place too long.


48. "Panic In Detroit" (Aladdin Sane - 1974) A paranoid riot song with a salsa beat? Definitely strange, but in the realm of glam rock it somehow works. The percussion section really makes this track as good as it is. Layered congas over a killer drum beat with a bouncing bass line and one of many brilliant riffs a-la Mick Ronson. Of all the myriad guitarists that have worked with Bowie, Ronson is easily the one that fit the Bowie's eccentricity the best. His gritty and throbbing tone was the perfect back-drop for Bowie's paranoid lyrics with amazing backing vocals rising behind. It's Santana by way of Ziggy Stardust. Dirty glam rock with a Latin flair. Truly a strange beast of a rocker.
47. "Right" (Young Americans - 1975) Of all the strange alter-egos Bowie has created for himself, the "plastic-soul" outing has to be one of the strangest yet most satisfying. Somehow, and mostly to the credit of his amazing band at the time. The song is a groovy interplay between a groovy piano, a slinky guitar part by Carlos Alomar and a wild and untamed sax solo throughout. It's truly a musical feast. Then the vocals have their back and forth assault between Bowie's fragile yet funky delivery and the soulful croon of Luther Vandross and Robin Clark. Doesn't get much better than that. It's always strange listening to this song amidst the glam rockers and kraut rock dirges of Bowie's standards. But it's that unique funkiness that really makes it worth coming back to.
46. "Look Back In Anger" (Lodger - 1979) - I always envision this song to being the ending credits to Bowie's insane 1970's era. Not that I'm saying he is literally looking back at his career by the title, but more because it's the perfect blend of what Bowie did the entire decade. Carlos Alomar unleashes one of his more understated performances and the rhythm section is a juggernaut of sound. This song sounds like a cut off of The Man Who Sold The World filtered through the mad intensity of Station to Station. Co-written by Brian Eno, it isn't hugely influenced by his style. This is clearly a rocker, great by any Bowie song standards. It definitely has layers of sound that fly back and forth throughout it. If you trade the live band for a drum machine and a synthesizer, you would have the Bowie song of the future. (Editor's Note: Make sure to watch the video for "Look Back In Anger." I just did for the first time while writing this and....wow. It's... something special.)

1 comment:

Greg said...

Finally started my Bowie top 50 journey. I really enjoy 5:15 and Right and the oddness of the Look Back video. Thanks for these and what I'm sure will be many more Bowie discoveries.